Words of Wisdom Upon the Death of the World’s Oldest Man
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
A little more than an hour northwest of our studios in St. Paul, Minnesota is the small town of Melrose. And, on September 21, 1896, in that rural farming village just off of what is now known as Interstate 94 was born Walter Breuning, “the world’s oldest man” as officially declared by the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records. He died on Thursday in Great Falls, Montana at the age of 114.
Breuning started working for the Great Northern Railway in 1913 and retired when he was 66. The railroad man, whose life spanned three centuries, leaves some sage advice to the rest of us:
“Tell the truth from the go” (it works out better and doesn’t kill you).
Eat only two meals per day (breakfast and lunch).
Pay cash for everything (you’ll spend more if you charge).
Embrace change (even the computer).
Keep the body busy (even strolling the halls with your walker).
And be kind to others:
“Everybody learns from life what’s going on. And if they pay attention to everything that people do, especially helping people, that’s one big thing. A lot of people think they’re born for themselves; I don’t think that. I believe that we’re here to help other people all the way through.”
Oh, and one other important piece of advice, don’t fear death:
“So many people are afraid to die, and there’s no use being afraid. You’re born to die — everybody. Eventually that’s what happens, and maybe it’s good, maybe bad. It depends on what you did during your life. If you take care of your life, God will take care of you. Amen.”
All photos by John Moore/Getty Images
Advice from Christopher Hitchens
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
While Christopher Hitchens’ rhetoric can be bombastic and pompous at times, I appreciate the challenging and empowering ideas of this big thinker. His Vanity Fair article addressing his battle with cancer is quite moving, if not only for its firm grounding and keen sense of humor as he wrestles with his circumstances.
Reading again this oft-quoted passage from his 2001 book, Letters to a Young Contrarian, I’m reminded of the writer and polemicist’s strength and resolve, his ability to give good advice and challenge civility and social norms — for the better and for the worse:
“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”
(via Against All Caligulas)
Don’t let the people who gave you a bad opinion of your tradition be the only ones who help you define it.
—Rabbi Sandy Sasso, from “The Spirituality of Parenting”
Auditioning this week’s show prior to release, Sandy Sasso’s words again struck me with their deep wisdom.
Kate Moos, managing producer